A few days ago I encountered a homeless man near Moorgate Station. It was 1.30am or so, and I was there ’cause I’d completed a random shift at The Water Poet that day (7.5 pounds an hour for just collecting and washing glasses, not bad). It was too late to take the Underground, and I don’t know shit about the buses, so I just got a little bit…lost. It was very dark, I was in a city I don’t really know in a country I’m new to, in a part of that city that was completely alien to me until that day and I was nervous as hell. It may seem ridiculous, but it certainly wasn’t a pleasant experience for me.
But let’s go back to the homeless guy.
He approached me very slowly, smile in his face – not a creepy smile, really, just a warm one – and probably cold to his bones. He talked to me with a very good British accent, using a polite way of speaking, with learned words. He was short, white bearded and very thin. He introduced himself, but apologized and didn’t give me his hand because it was “too dirty”, and then started to ask me if I could buy him some food at Sainsbury’s.
But then he stopped the talk, and frowned. He looked at me and asked if I was lost.
I smiled then and, of course, said “yes”. At this point he started to apologize again because he said he was putting his own problems above mine. He started to ask me what I needed, told me that he knew the bus system, all that kind of thing.
So, at that point, I sort of stopped listening to him. I knew that he’d help me for sure; of course, he had nothing better to do, and helping me could result in a grateful person with money in his pockets. So, instead of listening, I started to think about all the other people I’d approached myself, asking for help.
They numbered five, until the homeless guy showed up.
Two of them just told me something like “busy, sorry” as they walked by, phone in hand and with the same tired face I probably had on. One of them listened to me, but as he didn’t know the place where I live, he just told me that he couldn’t be of any help. The other two didn’t even reply to my “excuse me”.
And that, so far, is the one and only fucking crap thing that I hate about London. I won’t say “people are shit”, no; the main problem is our jobs. There’s always a lot more work that must be done, at all times, in all places. Talking about London is talking about busy times, busy people, busy minds. People tend to act cold because they’re just too tired to be anything else, and only fucking homeless people have the will to be kind or careful with strangers because, of course, they don’t have a job that’s draining their entirely lives out its bodies.
I don’t know if I’m right or wrong. And of course, I can’t say that every homeless person and every random worker is exactly like this, but the truth is that I got home that night because that guy helped me, and the others just didn’t have the time needed to even listen to my words. It was very sad. I thought of it all the way home, and not in a good mood. It all seemed sad as hell.
And yes, I bought food for the guy.